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Leadership and Gender in International Human Rights: The Role of Women in Anti-Trafficking Policy in the U.S. Congress

Jeff Gulati
Bentley University
Jeff Gulati
Bentley University
Open Panel

Abstract

This study examines the role that women members of Congress have in international human rights policy by analyzing U.S. policy on sex trafficking between 1999 and 2010. The problem of trafficking and human trafficking more broadly defined has important implications for women’s equality and well-being and, thus, it would be expected that women in Congress would be more focused on this issue than men. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that countries with more women representatives in their national legislatures are more likely to pursue anti-trafficking initiatives than countries with fewer women members. Although feminists took the early lead in bringing attention to this issue, interest goes beyond women’s equality; it has attracted the attention of men and women policy makers and activists concerned about human rights more generally, labor rights, immigration and national security. Religious conservatives also have taken a keen interest in this issue and other international problems with a sexual/moral dimension. To better understand the response to trafficking and the specific role played by women, this study examines the effect that gender has on bill sponsorship and bill co-sponsorship on human trafficking between the 106th and 111th Congresses. A series of multivariate logit (for sponsorship) and negative binomial regression (for co-sponsorship) models will be estimated to test the hypothesis that women are more likely than men to sponsor and co-sponsor anti-trafficking bills in the Senate and the House after controlling for all other variables. The findings will be explained and interpreted further by drawing on interviews with interest group and NGO leaders, staffers of women and men members who are active on the issue, and staffers of women members who have not been active leaders on the issue. This study will make a significant contribution to the study of public policy and gender representation by examining the role that women have in foreign policy making, human rights policy and in issues that go beyond impacting women.